The Jukebox

"You know maybe, just maybe, I actually care about you!" I screeched in frustration at his blatant refusal of my affections.

"And maybe, just maybe, I don't feel the same way." He retorted with a glare.

My throat burned and my stomach contracted painfully as the words resonated through the room. "So what are you saying?" I asked him slowly; so slowly and so lightly that I can barely hear myself.

"That maybe I don't want to buy a jukebox with you."

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1. Works of Art

 

1. Works of Art

I LOOKED AROUND the dingy café. Above me, the lights flickered. I sighed and made slow circles in my smoothie with a bright blue straw as I glanced at the worn out clock for the third time in the past minute. With the glass almost empty, I raised the straw to my bright red lips and sipped gingerly, careful to not stain the utensil as the liquid slurped into my mouth.

With my patience dwindling as it hung by a hair, I thrusted my head warily on my arms that rested on the table, groaning. Had I remembered today was Friday when I biked here, I probably would have arrived later. Bobby always came late on Fridays with the same excuse: I was at practice, baby.

"Would you like a re-fill?" the elderly waitress, Mindy, asked, stepping back on the nylon floors with her roller blades. Heaving a great sigh, I nodded, pushing my glass towards her while she poured, eyeing me all the while. "You still gon'na wait?" she asked, shaking her head in slight derision.

Mindy probably knew me better than I knew myself. Having come here since I was two with my absentee father, she knew almost everything I liked, disliked and got slightly annoyed with. So it was obvious she knew that when Bobby was late, I would wait. It was the same thing every time: an unhealthy routine. I'd say, "oh, for only a little while," and she'd scoff and shrug, well aware that she couldn't change my mind, before replying with a, "sure." 

Today wasn't any different.

"For only a little while." My eyes wandered around the whole room so they wouldn't make contact with hers as I nonchalantly sipped my drink. I still knew that she shrugged and gave a scoff, voicing her disregarding statement of redundancy with a muttered "sure."

As she skated away, I glared at the table; the napkins I had drawn on earlier were scattered everywhere. I looked to the side to see that the napkin dispenser was empty and cursed. 

Clenching my jaw in irritation, I dropped my straw carelessly into the smoothie, licked my lips in case of residue and then heaved myself out of the booth before walking towards the front desk.

"Hey, Rich, can I grab some napkins?" I called out, but I was already grabbing a fistful. As per usual, the middle aged man ignored me and just continued to make fries so I simply retreated back to my table. In my experience of coming to this café, I have yet to hear Rich talk, his voice staying in a continuous and undecipherable monotone of a grumble. 

It was when I was withdrawing that something happened, and to clarify this significance: nothing ever happens here. 

Rich's Café is not a popular place. In fact, if popularity was a song, Rich's Café would be deemed the worst of the millennium. 

The reason for this mostly came from its style, which is to say old. The kids know-a-days didn't like to come here because the pizza parlor down the street had a much better dance floor, a functional jukebox and vinyl booths that don't scratch at your back. 

So when a group of five boys from Bridgewood, ("the city over yonder," all the old folks in town would say) sauntered in, their soaked rugby uniforms tight on their athletic bodies, of course the normal reaction I had was to stand there paralyzed and gape. 

Its not because I've never seen those kind of boys before (Bobby went to Bridgewood), but because I could not fathom how wealthy douche bags could even muster the thought of entering a place like this, much less actually do it. Hell, it took me forever to talk Bobby into coming here. Well, that and a lot of make out sessions.

I must have been in their way because immediately once they entered, the boys all turned to face me, their expressions evident with disgust and confusion and their smiles and laughs gone. One of the boys in front blinked repeatedly and nudged his head to the side. I didn't understand.

"You're in the way," he clarified, flicking his brown hair out of his face. I fluttered my eyes at him and glanced around me, my head feeling slightly fuzzy from the smell that radiated off of them. It took me a while, but I finally realized that it was I in the way and not an imaginary person behind me. 

"Sorry," I muttered with a tint of red on my cheeks. Keeping my head down, I sashayed to the side, flattening myself against a cubic column so that they could walk by. The team grumbled as they dragged past me, their metallic cleats clicking on the hardwood floors. I contemplated telling them that those shoes were bad for the flooring, but decided against it. If Rich didn't like it then he would chase them out with the mop.

Finally, when the last person walked by (and shot me a dirty look), I quickly went back to my small booth, took out the expensive ink pen my dad got me from Florida, and began drawing.

A lot of people claimed that I was really good at drawing. They would burst about how my artwork should be show cased in galleries and the likes. But I never understood what they were talking about: I did simple minded pieces, like still life and portraits. Sure, they trumped the average sketch and came out with a realistic flare, but many people could do that.

I guess coming from a small town meant that people didn't know this. It wasn't because they were stupid; it was just because they were ignorant and had no initiative to be informed. They would rather watch T.V. than pick up a book about the Metropolitan Museum of Art and History. They would rather listen to the Beatles and Led Zeppelin (who were pretty bitchin') than Mozart or Bach. In fact, they would rather do belly slides in the dirty grass than pick up a book like To Kill a Mockingbird and just look at the cover.

I was a small town girl stuck in a small town world.

However, the thought of leaving this place could not truly bypass the realistic barriers of my mind. The idea was a little whisper in my head; a soft giggle that was never taken seriously. A vanilla secret, my dad would call it. It was merely a thought I could mull over when I was bored or trying to go to sleep. 

I mean, let's be real; how is someone like me ever going to go some place like Manhattan or Chicago. And if I did ever go, how would I survive? I lacked the basic necessities that other independent and strong willed people were instilled with from their upbringing.

Me? I was just taught every single landmark in this damn town.

If only dad didn't...but I shut this thought down. It was never good to mull over unrealistic prospects. 

Consumed in my thoughts, I didn't notice anyone approach me. In fact, I didn't even notice when a person sat across from me and began playing with the salt shaker. I was so absorbed in the napkin that the only thing that got me out of my focus was the cleat clad foot that brushed against my bare clean-shaven legs, leaving a chilling trail of goose bumps up my skin. 

I yelped, my hand swiveling on the napkin with my heart rate accelerating by ten fold. Raising my head, I saw the brown haired boy from earlier (the one who had told me to move out of the way) looking at me with an amused expression.

"Excuse me." I managed to get out between my attempts to calm down. I flickered my eyes at the napkin and gasped, horrified at what he had done to my portrait. "Look at this!" I raised the napkin so he can see. "Look what you've done!"

"...Dirtied a napkin?" he provided in an accent-a fake British one, might I add. I glared at him, swallowing down the vile words that wanted to come out. "Isn't that its intended purpose?" 

"You dirtied a canvas." I replied haughtily. 

"Right. I dirtied a napkin that you were drawing a...space ship on, am I correct?" he clasped his hands on the table and leaned forward, a snooty smile on his face. I would have done anything to slap it away. 

"I was drawing a feather, thank you very much," I snatched the napkin from the table and placed it beside me, refusing to let myself flush with mortification. "Now, what do you want?" I almost wince at the rudeness of my tone.

"Harsh tone, harsh tone indeed." He placed a hand on his heart in mock pain. "Can't a lad come and say hi to a pretty bird?" He batted his eyelashes in a patronizing manner. I refused to be frazzled and kept a straight face.

Replying in a sickly sweet tone, I leaned forward onto the table, licking my chapped lips. "Not when that 'lad' is using a fake British accent to pick up girls who already have boyfriends." I didn't mention the fact that I was on the verge of breaking up with said boyfriend, for that was irrelevant to this conversation.

"Well damn," the guy said, now lounging on the booth, swinging one arm over so that his finger brushed the window pane on the opposite side, "and I thought I was doing pretty damn good." The thickness in his voice made it obvious that he was originally a Yankee; that and his northern styled cowlick. 

"The word you are looking for is 'well,' not 'good.'" I corrected smugly. The guy snorted. 

"Ain't someone a missy-know-it-all?"

"The names Emily," I raised my head, shaking my bangs out of my eyes. I lifted my nose with dignity. "Emily Kooler. And it is 'isn't'."

"The names Walker," he didn't extend his hand, "Walker Kale. And I don't give a shit." And this was when my insides froze.

Despite going to an all girl private school, Walker Kale was a name that echoed through the hallways loudly. It wasn't because he was a "lady's man" and broke every girl's heart. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Walker Kale was a name that was always associated with the word "asshole," "bastard," or, and this is my personal favorite, "douche wad."

He was the boy that every girl wanted but couldn't get. The rumor was that he was gay, but this quickly changed to the fact that he only dated attractive older women. I emphasize the word attractive because, apparently, all the older girls in my school are not of this trait.

I wasn't the one to be a true judge of his character and deem him of such qualities. Yet, within only meeting him for less than two minutes, I felt this unbidden sensation pit itself in my stomach and turn violently. It wasn't that I thought he was bad but this instinct in me thought something off.

"Can I inquire what your business is, Walker?" I question in an overly formal tone. He rolled his eyes.

"Look, I'm going to be blunt because I don't think you're the type of girl that likes to beat around the bush, y'know." I made a shrug-nod combination in agreement. "My buddies' o'er there," he nudged his thumb towards the group of boys that attempted to be inconspicuous as they peaked above and around the red booths, "triple dog dared me to ask you out on a date and get your number."

I continued to stare, a bland expression on my face; still unaware of what he was doing here. "And you didn't just reject this dare?"

He gave me a glare, scrunching his face up as if I were stupid. "What do you think I am? Chicken or something? No one ever rejects a triple dog dare!"

I cleared my throat. "You mean: no one of your intelligence."

"Look here Koo-Ler," he sneered, getting real close to me, "just because I ain't got a high GPA-"

"-I don't have a." I corrected quickly, smirking. His face began to flush, his anger escalating.

"--Don't mean I don't know stuff like you do."

"-Doesn't mean that."

Fed up, he gave me a livid look, his face turning a vibrant scarlet. Walker slammed his hand on the table, frustrated. "Just stop correcting me, damn it!"

"Then acquire proper grammar, damn it." I mocked his anger and, despite a mildly guilty feeling boiling within me, felt satisfied at the intensity of his rage. 

For a prolonged moment, the two of us stared at each other; I, with a calm and leveled gaze, whilst he with his snarling and harsh breathing posture.

Annoyed, he finally spoke. "Look, can we just get through this so I can leave." He breathed out, rubbing his eyes like he was tired. I pouted, glancing at the clock before realizing that Bobby should actually be here soon.

"Alright, but make it quick. My boyfriend is coming over soon and I don't want him to see you." The last words come out with a bitter taste, my face contoured in dislike.

"Well don't say it as if it's a bad thing," he snorted sarcastically before becoming serious. "I mean, a shit load of girls would love to be in your shoes."

"From the manner in which you introduced yourself, I highly doubt that's likely." I cross my arms over my chest, a small pompous grin on my face.

"Whatever." He rolled his eyes. "Now pretend like you're interested in me and write down your number."

I considered this for a moment, staring at the blank napkin and the Papermate gel pen he pushed my way. I didn't truly gain anything from helping him out-the only thing I would achieve was getting him to go away. Yet, as I sat there, I discovered that I didn't actually want that. This nit-wit has proven to be the greatest source of entertainment I have ever encountered while waiting for Bobby.

But with one look at the clock, I knew I had to act fast. Bobby got jealous real fast and if he even thought that a guy was trying to 'make a move' on me, he wouldn't hesitate to cause a scene. 

So, I jot down the numbers and, for extra measures, puckered my lips and pressed the napkin snuggly against them, making sure to rub a little. When I handed it over, I bat my eyelashes and giggled, acting like one of those stereotypical ditz from the sit-coms mom watched on the television set.

"If it's the wrong number, I'll kill you." He breathed out, a fake smile plastered on his face.

"But you won't find me." I said with a loud airy laugh and he glared a little before winking, waving and then walking off. 

When he left, I smiled to myself whilst I glanced at the group of boys from between my lashes. They were wolf-calling, and laughing, slapping Walker's back in congratulations and making mildly vulgar movements every now and again. I was surprised to see that rather than gloating at his obvious win, all Walker did was shake his head and flush a little.

Mindy came by right after Walker left and took away my empty glass. "Well that was different, wasn't it?" There was this little gleam in her eye that I don't seem to understand, but I don't think too much of it. 

Instead, I look up at her and smile with a nod. I sip and think about whether or not Walker would call the number because if he did, he would most definitely meet my mother via phone. 

"It sure was."

L E D Z E P P L I N B E A T L E S B O B M A R L E Y B I T C H I N ' 8 0 ' S

 

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